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The Taraaweeh

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of Allah
(swt), the Most Beneficient, the Most Merciful

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The Nature of Taraaweeh – Sunnah or Fard?

If a Muslim does not pray Taraaweeh, there is no sin on him for that, whether he has an excuse or not, because it is not obligatory. Rather it is a confirmed Sunnah which the Prophet (saws) did regularly and encouraged the Muslims to do as he said: “Whoever prays qiyaam in Ramadaan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

However the Muslim should not neglect Taraaweeh prayer. If he cannot pray it with the Imam in the mosque, then he should pray it at home. If he cannot pray eleven raka’ahs then he should pray as much as he can, even if it is only two raka’ahs after which he should pray Witr. And Allah (swt) knows best.

Origins of the Taraaweeh Prayers

The night prayer in Ramadaan has a special consideration different from any other time of the year. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “Whoever offers optional prayers (like Taraaweeh prayers) throughout the nights of Ramadaan, believing in Allah and seeking His rewards, will have his previous sins forgiven.”

Qi’yam of the nights of Ramadaan includes the early as well as the late night. So, the Taraaweeh is considered from the Qi’yam of Ramadaan so we should perform it. It was called Taraaweeh because the Companions of the prophet and the successors to the Companions used to make a lengthy standing in them and they would take rest after offering every four Raka’ah. This is how these came to be named Taraaweeh (Rest prayer).

The prophet (saws) was the first who made praying the Taraaweeh in congregation Sunnah (recommended), and then he left it fearing that it may become obligatory upon his Ummah. Imams Bukhari and Muslim have reported that Aisha (r) said that the prophet (saws) prayed once in the Masjid in one of the night of Ramadaan. People joined him, and then more people joined him in the next night. Then more people waited for the prophet (saws) in the third and the fourth (night), but the prophet (saws) did not come out to them. In the next morning, the prophet (saws) said: “I have seen what you did, nothing had prevented me from coming out to you except that I feared that it may become obligatory upon you.”

Then, during the rule of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (r), he saw the companions praying in the Masjid individually, or in different congregation so he ordered them to prayer behind one Imam. During his caliphate, in an authentic narration reported by Imam Malik “Umar (r) ordered Ubayy bin K’ab and Tamim Ad-Dari (r) to offer them in congregation. He enjoined them to offer eight Raka’ah Taraaweeh and three Raka’ah Witr. This practice has been going on ever since.”

The Number of Raka’ahs

The scholars have different opinions about the number of Raka’ahs of Taraaweeh prayer along with the Witr. Some said: forty-one Raka’ahs, some said: thirty-nine, some said: twenty-nine, some said: twenty-three, some said: nineteen, some said: thirteen and some said: eleven. The strongest opinions are those who said: eleven according to Imams Bukhari and Muslim that Aisha (r) was asked about the night prayer of the prophet (saws) in Ramadaan, she replied: “He did not pray it more than eleven Raka’ahs.” Also Imam Bukhari reported that Aisha (r) said: “The prophet used to offer thirteen Ruk’at of the night prayer and that included the Witr and two Ruk’at Sunnah of the Fajr prayer.” Also Imam Bukhari reported that Ibn’ Abbas (R.A.) said: “The Salaat (prayer) of the prophet used to be of thirteen Raka’at, i.e. of the night prayer”. Which included the Witr and two Ruk’at Sunnah of the Fajr prayer.

The early Muslims from the used to pray the Taraaweeh prayer. Assae’eb bin Yazeed said: “The Imam used to read hundreds of verses and we used to use the staff to help us stand up from the lengthy standing.” This is contrary to what many Muslim do these days. The people today pray the Taraaweeh with great speed so that the recitation is almost not understood. So we should be really cautious.

The practice of 20 raka’ats was developed by the caliphs Umar ibn al-Khattab (r) and Ali ibn Abu Talib (r). It was not disputed by the salaf and has been the position of the four madhabs since that time. There are those who claim that eight raka’ats is a bid’a or an unknown practice among Muslims. In fact, both are recognized and valid. Muslims can follow one or the other position if they prefer it (for instance, offering eight raka’ahs if they prefer to follow the original practice of the Prophet (saws), or offering 20 if they prefer to follow the rulings of the madhabs). Or they can achieve reward by following what the imam does at the Masjid, whichever it might be.

We should prepare ourselves to pray the Taraaweeh in the Masjid in congregation with the Imam and not to leave until the Imam has finished it and finished the Witr prayer so that we all gain the rewards of praying the whole night. The prophet (saws) said: “Whoever prays with the Imam until he leaves, it is considered as Qi’yam of one night.”

Women and the Taraaweeh

The scholars have a consensus that women are allowed to come to pray the Taraaweeh in the Masjid with men if they are wearing the Hijab, and men should not prevent the women from coming to the Masjid. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: “Do not prevent women from coming to the Masjid.”

It is a must that women should have a designated place in the Masjid in the back of it like it was during the life of the prophet (saws) and that they start with the last row unlike men. Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “The best of the men’s rows [In Salaat (prayer)] is the first row and the worst row is the last; but the best of the women’s row is the last row and the worst of their rows is the first.”

For those women who come to the Masjid for the congregation prayer, they should leave the Masjid as soon as the Imam makes Tasleem, or they should have special doors for them to leave the Masjid from so that they would not mingle with men. Imam Bukhari reported that Umm Salamah (r) said: “When the prophet (saws) used to make Tasleem, the women got up and left while the prophet (saws) remained shortly in his place before he got up. She said: this is (Allah knows best) because the prophet (saws) wanted the women to leave before the men can catch up with them.”

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Written by al Muddaththir

June 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

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